27% of teachers are ‘chronically absent’

Image result for missing teachers

Chronic absenteeism among teachers is on the rise, according to federal data, reports the Washington Post. Twenty-seven percent of teachers — more than 75 percent in some districts — missed more than 10 days of school in 2014.

Absenteeism is highest in poor, rural areas and inner cities.

In the Alamance-Burlington School System, located between Greensboro and Chapel Hill, N.C., 80 percent of its 1,500 teachers missed more than 10 days of school in the 2013-2014 school year. Cleveland reported that about 84 percent of its 2,700 teachers had excessive absences. Nevada’s Clark County School District, which includes Las Vegas, reported that more than half of its 17,000 teachers were chronically absent.

Students learn significantly less if their teachers are absent for 10 or more days, concludes the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Fifty-eight percent of teachers were chronically absent at Washington, D.C.’s Stuart-Hobson Middle School in 2014, reports the Post. Several said it’s a stressful place to teach.

“I would wake up in a panic and feeling like there was a pit in my stomach,” Sean McGrath, a former social studies teacher. “It was a feeling of dread and despair.” After logging seven absences in September, McGrath quit his job.

Younger students do better in science

Fourth and eighth graders are doing better on the National Assessment of Educational Progress science exam, but two-thirds of students aren’t proficient. Twelfth-grade scores remained the same.

A national sample of students were tested in physical science, life science and earth and space sciences.

2011 question for 8th graders

2011 question for 8th graders

Science instruction has improved for younger students, said John Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser. “We will see it reflected in the years ahead in the 12th-grade scores as well,” he said.

Fourth-grade girls closed the gender gap, while older girls improved more than their male classmates.

Black and Latino students also narrowed the achievement gap in science.

Sample science questions for fourth graderseighth graders and 12th graders start on page 17.

How Hillary’s hometown keeps poor kids out

Hillary Clinton’s high-priced hometown of Chappaqua, New York has great schools for children from affluent, white families, writes Dana Goldstein in Politico. There are no poor kids.

Westchester County was supposed to become a model of integrating well-to-do, white communities, but residents have delayed or blocked plans to build affordable housing, writes Goldstein.

Affluent parents are fighting attempts to desegregate schools on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

A better school for my kid (not yours)

Lucinda Rosenfeld’s Class, a novel about a Brooklyn parents scheming to get their daughter in an out-of-neighborhood school, is a “guilty pleasure” read, writes Alexander Russo.

College-educated white liberals, Karen Kipple and her husband condo move into a gentrifying neighborhood where the local school is not as highly rated as the the school a few blocks away that’s already fully gentrified.

Karen can brag that her third-grader attends a racially mixed school. But the test scores are mediocre. Will her child succeed with a good-enough education?

“This is not a deep policy book, or even always entirely serious in terms of how it addresses education issues,” writes Russo. “But the issues it raises are serious underneath the satire, and the dynamics among parents, teachers, and children seem fairly realistic.”

Comedian Wyatt Cenac, who’s got a Netflix series called Brooklyn, talks about gentrification in Grist.

“If wealthier people move into a neighborhood and then use their clout to effect change,” the local school may improve, he says. But sometimes, the wealthy “don’t care about the school across street, because they’re going to put their kids in private school, miles away.” Without a sense of community, gentrification pushes out the people who were there before.

Chalkbeat reports on diversity success stories in New York City.

Why charters will lose in Massachusetts

Massachusetts voters will reject a measure allowing up to 12 new charter schools, predicts Jay Greene on Ed Next‘s blog. Why? Charters serve disadvantaged blacks and Latinos, not middle-class and well-to-do families. That’s bad politics, he writes.

Rigorous evaluations of existing Boston charters show large test score gains,” he writes. Charter supporters are spending millions on ads.

Yet the charter expansion appears to be way behind in recent polls.

Education reformers are “so obsessed with social justice virtue-signaling that they’ve forgotten how politics actually works, writes Greene.  “If you want to help the poor, you should design programs that include the middle and upper-middle classes.”

Here’s more from The 74’s Matt Barnum on competing claims in the Measure 2 campaign.

In Mike’s playborhood, kids take risks

Children jump from the playhouse roof to the trampoline in Mike Lanza’s backyard in Menlo Park, CA. Photo: Holly Andres/New York Times.

As the “anti-helicopter parent,” Mike Lanza has turned his Silicon Valley home into a not-very-safe play zone, writes Melanie Thernstrom in the New York Times Magazine. He wants his three “boys to have a normal childhood, while complaining that his idea of normal is no longer normal.”

Kids need a chance to play outdoors, their own way, Lanza believes. Neighborhood kids are welcome to play in his yard at any time — without an adult to supervise.

“His free-time-is-for-goofing-around ethos is particularly anomalous in Silicon Valley,” writes Thernstrom, whose kids were preschool classmates of Lanza’s youngest boy. The area is full of “former engineers, executives and other highly educated women who have renounced work in favor of what they call uber-parenting.”

. . . .  parents think they should be producing model kids, optimized kids, kids with extra capacity and cool features: kids who have start-ups (or at least work at one); do environmental work in the Galápagos; speak multiple languages; demonstrate a repeatable golf swing; or sing arias. To a comical extent, parents here justify the perverted ambition through appeals to research (enlarging the language center of the brain and so forth) while ignoring research on the negative effects on children of being micromanaged.

A high-tech entrepreneur, Lanza is the author of Playborhood and writes a blog on turning neighborhoods into communities where kids can play outside.

I’ve walked past the Lanza house, which is in a lovely, expensive neighborhood near Stanford. I also did some freelance editing for his wife (who is not that happy about her kids playing on the roof) years ago.

Why LA’s teacher housing has no teachers

The Sage Park Apartments were built on vacant land near Gardena High School and opened in 2015.School employees — but not teachers — live in the Sage Park Apartments, which opened in 2015. Photo: Los Angeles Times

To retain teachers, Los Angeles Unified built two below-market apartment complexes on district land and is finishing a third. Not one teacher lives in the district’s affordable housing, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Teachers, who start at $50,300 a year, earn too much. Instead, the apartments are occupied by low-paid school employees such as cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers and aides.

Federal subsidies used to build the apartments “restricted the units to households that earned 30% to 60% of area median income,” the Times explains.  That’s less than $35,000 a year for a single person.

Diamond Jones, 24, a special education assistant who earns $15 an hour, pays $588 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, less than a third of the market rate.

Who’s blocking the door now?

It’s been 53 years since Gov. George Wallace “stood in the schoolhouse door” to keep blacks out of the University of Alabama.

Affluent white suburbanites want to limit urban charter schools, complain minority parents in Boston. “So far, 194 mainly non-urban school committees statewide have backed resolutions opposing Question 2,” which would lift the cap on charter schools, reports the Boston Herald.

“You are hurting our children — not yours. Do you actually care what happens to little black and brown children? No, you don’t” said Dawn Foye, a Roxbury mother who sends her son to KIPP Academy in Mattapan.

Boston has the highest-performing charter schools in the nation. Most students come from low-income and working-class Black and Latino families.

Social media feuds become school fights

Teens are using social media to pick and plan school fights, writes Hechinger’s Katy Reckdahl, reporting from New Orleans.

A “huge proportion” of fights have roots in social media, social worker Osha Sempel told Reckdahl.

Beldon Batiste, 15, stands in the doorway to his home, looking out at the street where he was injured last year in a fight that was ignited by online posts. Photo: Sophia Germer

Beldon Batiste, 15, stands in the doorway to his home, looking out at the street where he was injured in a fight ignited by online posts. Photo: Sophia Germer

Last year, some New Orleans educators wondered why fights were starting “as soon as students got off the buses in the morning,” Reckdahl writes. “Then it became clear: when teens feud on social media at night, they arrive at school ready to fight.”

Mondays are a big problem, said Jennifer Pagan, a mediator at West Jefferson High School in a New Orleans suburb. “Kids get on the sofa on Friday and spend the weekend on Snapchat or Kik — their weapons of mass destruction.”

New Orleans PeaceKeepers maintains a “Squash the Beef” hotline. “School becomes the battleground,” said co-founder Willie Muhammad, a teacher. “If someone makes an ugly remark online and an argument ensues, one kid will tell another, ‘Okay, when we get to school tomorrow, I’m going to handle it.”

Keep ‘no excuses’ — and teach self-discipline

Don’t dump “no excuses” discipline, writes Sharif El-Mekki in Education Post. He attended a no-excuses school that taught him self-discipline. Now the father of five, he’s the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus in Philadelphia.

growing backlash blames rigid discipline policies for paving the road from school to prison, writes El-Mekki. “Rigidity without love or respect is detrimental to our communities.”

However, he worries the pendulum is swinging too far. “Black families should not have to choose between chaotic or callous schools for their children.”

At his school, families want “no excuses in striving for excellence,” he writes.

What these families don’t want is an intense focus on disciplining students without also motivating their children to be self-disciplined. They expect us to help our students be successful despite any trauma they may have experienced or learning challenges they must overcome. They appreciate that we use restorative justice practices and consider cultural context.

“No excuses” extends to administrators and teachers, writes El-Mekki. “Low expectations are just as damning to our communities as rigidity without love and respect.”